On May 18, 2011 – just three short days before the Family Radio predicted rapture – a man and a white horse tried to board the 7:02pm service from Wrexham to Holyhead in the United Kingdom. You know, when you’re predicting the end of times from a mathematical formula derived from Noah’s flood, the Garden of Eden, and inspired texts (I reserve judgment on what precisely was the inspiration), and donor inflated prophetic delusions, forecasting the arrival of a Horseman of the Apocalypse and being off by about 3 days isn’t bad. Adjusting for leap years, the Gregorian calendar misprints, and obfuscated Papal Bulls, the only surprise is that the End of Times would come on UK public transportation. Then again, why not? If you’ve ever used public transportation in the UK, you’ve probably felt moments when the notion of hell and purgatory are quite real and possibly already upon us.
So, as the hours ticked on, I was particularly astute to pick up any subtle alterations indicative of the rapture. Different color sunrises, animal behavioral changes, you know the drill. On the 21st of May, to be clear, the world changed. The sky above the Rotunda at Monticello was bluer than I’ve ever seen it. Great visibility for inbound angels or outbound souls. The temperature was downright heavenly. And, without question, there were some ominous signs. The koi in my fish pond seemed to crawl half way out of the water to reach for the food that was in abundance on the ground surrounding the pond leading me to wonder if they’d be on at least four legs by the end of the End of Times at 6pm. Earthquakes happened – but then, again, they have been seeming to do that a lot lately. Martin Parkinson, Australia’s Treasury Secretary, exhibited the unbelievable candor of criticizing his PhD advisor Ben Bernanke’s departure from their co-authored paper published in 1990. And at the Preakness – after all, if you’re looking for an Apocalypse, what better a place to do so than at a horse race – Astrology came in third! Take that all you heathens! Shackleford was the Triple Crown spoiler and, as you all know, Shacklefords came from the “cradle of Christianity” (Northumberland, UK) known to be the centre of the Church’s greatest adherents back in the day. So there we have it. The UK, Shackleford, a white horse on a train… do you need any more convincing?
And, as you can see from this blog post, I made it. I’m writing to all of you from ‘the other side’. I am assuming, unless I hear otherwise, that I am know in the ‘after-life’ and, having awoken to another glorious day – sunny, fish still trying to walk, my lovely family being lovely – I’m pleased to report that the hereafter is remarkably similar to the here before. I feel a bit nicer. It seems that I’m a touch more tolerant. I don’t know but I think that the soft pretzels I made taste a little, I don’t know, softer or more pretzely. See, I can even make up words that you understand from the other side.
May 21 was a great day for a bunch of reasons. All of them had to do with the people with whom I spent the day. I had some of my dear family from South India in the house and we laughed, ate, and enjoyed life. I had Colleen, Katie, Zach and April around – making for a delightful family affair. Scooby was as affable and lazy as ever. I got to skype with some of my friends in Papua New Guinea. Yes, in fact, May 21 was a remarkable, transformative day. But most of all, the 21st was great because it let me reflect on the notion of an apocalypse.
You see, here’s my beef with world-enders and those pre-disposed to drink from their Kool-Aid chalices. I think that the notion of the giant reset button in the sky is an enemy of accountability. I think that if you actually have room in your head for the just-around-the-corner fire of destruction or eternal bliss, you’ll actually be far less motivated to make a difference with what you’re encountering today. By holding a plausible option that you really don’t have to concern yourself with, say, 1,000 year consequences for your actions because the world’s going to be toasted by some remote, vindictive recluse who is seriously angry with his own creation, you run the risk of exculpating yourself and others from actions which should be considered. Whether there is an existential hereafter or not is not the point. The point is what you do with the present. Are you showing up and making a difference in the lives you touch or in the places where you can affect consequence? If yes, tomorrow will be as rewarding as yesterday and you’ll have neither the time nor the motivation to obsess about some temporally defined shift, up, down or out. If no, May 21 will be the End of Time to make a difference that day and if you don’t wake up and show up, you’ll blow another day on the 22nd, 23rd, etc…
And, after you unwind the comedy and the irony of Family Radio’s fantasy, you see that the great tragedy is the hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of people who, deluded by empiricism stacked on myth, chose to escape rather than engage. Whether it’s the advertisers who paid for the billboards, the vans guzzling gas up and down interstates, the pamphlets and brochures screaming out the warning of the End, or whether it’s the purveyors of fear who prey on the same fatalism to erode citizens’ confidence to create a ‘More Perfect Union’, the apocalyptic myth is destructive. The dissociation of people from consequence – temporally, spatially, or metaphysically – is a utility wielded by those who seek to manipulate and control. The sooner people of conscience and consciousness engage free from such influence, the sooner we’ll have a bit more bliss on Earth.
Happy tomorrow! Do something to celebrate being human, again.